Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
27Trip End Dec 15, 2006
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This was my first real taste of Western Europe and I couldn't wait to have my first bite. Being in Italy I thought great food would be a safe bet but unfortunately my first experience was a soggy slice of Piza at Rome international airport. Not the best introduction. Rome, however, was an incredible city. Many Italian men in shiny suits riding on scooters and eating Gelati - what wasn磘 to like? Our first destination was the catholic capital of the world - the Vatican. I have discovered that Catholics, on the whole, are a fairly patient bunch - we had 4 hours of waiting for both St. Peter磗 Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Jesus popped down and gave us a couple of miracles but otherwise it was mostly just waiting. I also discovered that I hate, I mean truly abhor, the QUEUE-JUMPER. It is a special sort of person who decides to just try to blend their way into a 2 kilometer queue. And at the Vatican no less, I mean, its like trying to sneak into heaven with a fake ID. On quite a few occasions I became a person who I do not like particularly much - the 创Ahem, GET THE HELL OUT THE LINE!!!创 person. The bastards would often then pretend not to understand English and remain in their positions. Luckily Jesus rocked up and sent them to Purgatory (about 2km back behind me at the start of the line - there really IS a sense that you aren't going anywhere back there). Anyway... the Sistine chapel was as wonderful as people describe (I particularly liked Michelangelo磗 flayed self-portrait on one of the walls - that man truly believed that purgatory would have been a better destination than where he was going). In Rome we also saw the other main sites - the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Roman steps, the Trevi Fountain (magnificent) and all the others. My biggest gripe was that I just couldn磘 speak the language - I felt it was sooo close to Spanish and yet I just couldn't get it. I asked my left cerebral hemisphere to speak in Italian and it told me to 创jfkldas fjlads创 - this I assumed was a garbled linguistic version of 创get lost创 (or it could have been a first warning-bleed of a stroke). Either way, Italian remained forever out of my control (much like my left fingers now seem to be out of my control... hmmm).
Our next destination was lovely Florence. Another brilliant destination where we got to bask in the culture, sip Italian hot chocolate and see some of the greatest art in our history. Michelangelo磗 David was wonderful, Bruneleschi磗 Duomo was breathtaking (as was the walk to the top) and the Uffizi Gallery (with works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian...) was just brilliant. It also had a truly mammoth Da Vinci display that gave me a headache counting all the ways that man was brilliant - Artist, Anatomist, Engineer, Musician... inventor of the robot (seriously).
Aaahhhh... Venice. So they say. Venice was, unfortunately, not the incredible highlight that I had hoped it would have been. It was indeed beautiful and spending hours wandering up and down the laneways and crossing the canals was a special experience. The problem really is that the prices have driven almost all of the Italians out of Venice - all that is left in tourism-megabusiness. Venice, at times, felt like a hugely complex mall connected by little bridges, everywhere I went I saw the same chain-stores as everywhere else - it gave the disconcerting impression of walking in circles (although walking in circles may have contributed)
Vienna was my first step out of Italy and into a German speaking country. As some of you may know I spent 8 years studying German at school and even had an exchange trip to a tiny little german village back in 1996. I also, unfortunately, have not spoken German for almost 8 years now. It was with a powerful feeling of dread (and a dash of excitement) that I started uttering German phrases again to a couple on a train (I just chose them at random). They stared at me blankly. This was not what I had hoped for. However they then started to speak to each other in Spanish and I realised I had met a couple of Argentinian tourists! We got to have a long chat in Spanish basically about how neither of us understood German. My current German level is ''Lonely Planet German phrasebook''. It is slowly coming back though.
Anyway, I really enjoyed Vienna. The old town was charming - we saw the museum of Freud (located in his old consulting rooms), a famous music museum and a Hapsburg dynasty palace. I even managed to take in the Vienna zoo (which was hands down the BEST zoo I have ever visited and made me sadly miss working with Jaguars in latin America).
So - I left Vienna this morning and just arrived in Prague. I just discovered that Tommy Emmanuel is playing a guitar concert here on Friday night so we have decided to stick around for it.
Hope everyone is well